The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2019 season with World Series aspirations. After all, they had just signed Bryce Harper, capping an offseason where they had acquired three All-Stars.
However, so much went awry that the Phillies didn’t even make the playoffs. They limped to an 81-81 record, which is only one game better than they did in 2018 when they didn’t have Harper, J.T. Realmuto or Jean Segura.
As the Phillies enter the offseason, what are the top changes this teams needs to make? Will Gabe Kapler be fired? Here’s a look at what went wrong for this team and what their top offseason priorities should be this winter:
What Went Wrong?
Starting Pitching Wasn’t There
It became very clear down the stretch that the Philadelphia Phillies could rely on Aaron Nola and pretty much no one else in terms of their starting rotation. Nola had a 3.87 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP, which is more the look of a No. 2 starter than an ace but considering there was almost nobody reliable behind him, he was the clear-cut No. 1 starter on this team.
It’s too hard to compete for a playoff spot when the starting pitching isn’t there. The Phillies had hoped guys like Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez would pan out but they flopped. The starting pitching sunk this team.
The Phillies actually hit more home runs in 2019 (215) than 2018 (186) but that’s actually not a big improvement. To start, home runs were up in 2019 almost across the board. While the Phillies hit more in 2019, they actually ranked higher in team home runs in 2018 (15th) than they did last year (22nd). That goes to show just what kind of power outage they had.
What’s shocking is that a team that added J.T. Realmuto (25 home runs) and Harper (35 home runs) only hit 29 more home runs than a season ago. Harper, Hoskins and Realmuto accounted for 42% of the team’s home runs. In some ways, that’s what you want but you also want more depth.
For comparison, the Washington Nationals had eight players with at least 17 home runs this year; the Phillies had five.
Of course, the bullpen was bested by injuries and that’s not something that’s easily controlled, but it is something that really hurt the Phillies in 2019. We’re talking about a unit that was 16th in ERA at 4.36 and 24th in opponent batting average at .258.
Closing was also mediocre as the team had a save percentage of 63.16%, which is right in the middle of the pack at 16th. It simply wasn’t good enough.
Upgrade Over Gabe Kapler
This is going to be a hot debate over the coming days but it makes a lot of sense to upgrade over Gabe Kapler. Sure, he’s got one more year left on his deal and it might make sense to let him sink with the ship next season.
MLB Insider Jon Heyman seems to think Kapler’s days are numbered.
“I could be proven wrong, but at this point, I think there’s a good chance that there will be a change there.”
There are differing opinions but it does not seem like in the long-term, Gabe Kapler is the man to take this team to the next level.
If that’s the case, the Phillies might be wise to make a change right now. When you look at the market, there are guys like Joe Maddon and Joe Girardi available right now.
Maddon grew up in the area and this might be his dream job. He’s been to the playoffs eight times in 16 seasons and has won a World Series. Girardi is probably also an upgrade.
Who knows who will be available if they keep Gabe Kapler for one more year and fire him next season? Right now, these are two good options to go after.
Find A No. 2 & No. 3 Starter
A lot of people will be clamoring for the Phillies to get Gerrit Cole and of course, he’d probably give this team a big boost (he does have a 5.40 ERA at Citizens Bank Park in three outings). However, the Phillies need much more than just one arm; they need multiple.
At this point, Arrieta is probably a No. 5 starter. Zach Elflein is still just 25 years old and has incrementally improved year-over-year, but he’s not much more than a No. 4 starter at this point.
The Phillies need at least a couple of solid, proven arms behind Nola to back up him and give the rotation a backbone. There will be guys like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler available.
Even a reunion with Cole Hamels on a shorter deal or Drew Smyly might be options. Whoever it is, the Phillies need to find at least two good starters before next season.
One of the big challenges with the Phillies is it’s hard to really see who the core of this future is. I know that might sound a bit bizarre to say but think about it: there’s Harper, Nola, Realmuto…and who else? Do we really know what they have in Rhys Hoskins, who batted just .226 this season?
They’re hoping that Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm – two of the organization’s top prospects – are future cornerstones but they’re not there yet.
Who is the young core that this team is building around? With teams like the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox, it’s clear who their future is. The Phillies have to be careful here because they could get old and expensive very quickly.
Find Some Bargain Arms For The Bullpen
There are a lot of options on the table – not many of them great ones – but the Phillies need to be shrewd in this department. There doesn’t need to be a huge payday for any one player.
What we’re looking at here is finding some arms who are solid and adding them into the mix with the crew and cast who was injured this year. They need to get healthy but they also need help.
Sign J.T. Realmuto To An Extension
We’ve already talked about how the Phillies don’t really have much of a core, so keeping Realmuto has to be a priority. He’ll be 29 at the start of next season and will be a free agent at the end of it.
If the Phillies aren’t planning to keep him, that means they’re doing a full-on breakdown and rebuild. After spending half-a-billion last offseason, it’s pretty clear there are zero plans to rebuild.
That being the case, come back to NJBetting.com very soon and look for the Phillies to sign Realmuto to an extension this offseason.
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